THE 'passionate' principal of Northwich’s newest performing arts academy ‘lived on pasta and rice’ to save up for her first drama school. 

Sir John Deane’s-educated Kimberley Baker was studying for a degree in musical theatre when she realised her real vocation wasn’t performing, but teaching.

From then on, she managed to save most of her student loan and did everything she could to amass teaching experience.

Then just one year after graduating with a first-class degree, she made her dream a reality, opening her first Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA) drama school in Leeds, which has been thriving now for 10 years.

But when Chester-born Kimberley had her first child three years ago, she decided it was time to move closer to her roots, eventually setting on Northwich, her husband’s hometown.

Not one to let the grass grow under her feet, the 33-year-old has now set up PQA Northwich, based at The Grange Junior School, which is holding a free open day on Saturday, January 27.

Northwich Guardian: PQA Northwich accepts students aged from four-18PQA Northwich accepts students aged from four-18 (Image: PQA)

Kimberley says helping kids overcome barriers to self-confidence through drama it what really makes her tick.

She added: “I just love being a part of the kids’ special moments – one they’re going to remember forever.

“I got a massive buzz out of performing on stage when I was younger.

“At the time, I didn’t think anything could top that feeling.

“But when we did our first school show in Leeds, having a kid stand on stage, who has never really spoken out before, stand there and do a solo. It was the biggest buzz I’ve ever had.

“It’s just gorgeous, and a much better feeling than any I got from performing myself. It's my passion.

“Actors are so often out of work, and in my second year at university, I started to question whether I wanted that kind of life to myself.

Northwich Guardian: PQA is the leading provider of TV and film education in the countryPQA is the leading provider of TV and film education in the country (Image: PQA)

“I done a bit of teaching already, at Theatre Clwyd, and The King’s School in Chester among other places.

“Then one day I just woke up and thought: ‘I’m going to start my own theatre school’.

“I started living on pasta and rice and saving up all my university loan.

“A year after graduating, I managed to open my first PQA in Leeds.”

Kimberely says PQA classes aren’t all ‘jazz hands and leg-warmers’ – they’re also the leading provider of film and TV education in the UK, which includes producing, directing, and camera and sound work.  

Most of her student students, she says, come for the confidence boost drama training gives them, as much as anything else.

“We have plenty of students who know they want to be West End performers, and that’s brilliant,” she added.

“We can help to make that happen.

“But the majority of students who come to PQA are coming because they need to learn to put their hand up more in school, or they need more confidence in speech and talking and believing in themselves. 

“We try to instil confidence in them and help them find out who they really are.”